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Retired Marine, Winchester native who lost legs, sight in Iraq, to be guest at State of the Union Address

Retired Kentucky Marine Matthew Bradford in uniform while assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion East at Fort Bragg (KyForward file photo)

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

A retired Marine from Winchester, who lost both legs and was blinded in an explosion in Iraq 11 years ago, will be one of President Donald Trump’s special guests when he delivers the State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

On Jan. 18, 2007, Matthew Bradford and his team were walking down a road next to a compound on the Euphrates River in Iraq when he saw a white bag leaning against a tree about 30 feet in front of him. After warning the team, he turned back around to see wires coming from under the road. Moments later, the device exploded under his feet.

Matthew Bradford

The blast took his left leg above the knee and severely damaged his right, which was later amputated. Shrapnel from the explosion blinded him. He had broken bones in his hand and damage to his abdomen led to the removal of a piece of his small intestine. His bladder ruptured and his stomach was bruised.

Two months later, on March 21, he left the hospital to start physical and occupational therapy, determined to learn to walk again before tackling his vision loss. Five months after the explosion in Iraq, Bradford was standing on his prosthetic legs for the first time. By December 2008, he had learned independent mobility, braille and how to operate a computer. In 2009, he walked 10 miles in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico.

In 2010, Bradford became the first blind, double amputee in the history of the Marine Corps to re-enlist. He said he wanted to help other wounded soldiers just as others helped him. He was stationed for two years at the Wounded Warrior Battalion – East Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to “help and mentor young wounded warriors.”

“I had help that got me through depression, a Marine whose job was to do that. He would come talk to me day in and day out, and that’s what I wanted to do for others,” Bradford said. “Just to be there and be a friend and not be a random Marine. I wanted to be a brother of theirs.”

In 2011, Bradford traveled back to Iraq once more for a closure trip with Operation Proper Exit. After the trip, he retired from the Marines, married his girlfriend and added a child to their family.

“The amputated legs and the blindness, it’s worth it now because [my kids and wife] are going to get a chance to live in a free country,” he said. “Everything I did, it’s for [them].”

Matthew Bradford joined the Marines after graduating from George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester., in 2004. His wife and three children live in Nicholasville. Bradford works in the district office of 6th District Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, as a National Security Fellow, where he focuses on outreach to veterans and leads the 6th District Veterans Coalition.

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